Autism and countdown to college graduation

Jeff Katz

There it is. In about eight weeks, Nate Katz will be a college graduate. The next couple of months are poised to be some of the most exciting of our 21 year adventure. Karen and I will meet with Nate’s professor/adviser next week to hash out some potential future projects (go back a few months to the “Alpha Folks” post). Also on the horizon is a very possible showing of Nate’s strip mall drawings in a Manhattan gallery. Graduation is almost an afterthought amidst all the hoopla.

But we know it’s not, that it is the signature moment for Nate and all of us. He will no longer be a student and ensconced in comfortable surroundings. We’re preparing for Nate the adult, Nate the artist, Nate the jobholder. I’m completely unstressed about it, though I don’t know why. I think it’s because there’s a big exhale of relief and accomplishment, and no real hurry to move to the next step. Perhaps it’s because we accept that Nate is likely to live with us for the foreseeable future, maybe forever. That’s a situation we know well and there’s nothing to get ready for.

Yet I know I need to push myself to make sure that the easiest way isn’t the way we choose. What a disservice to Nate if we pack it in now, help him figure out how to work without helping him figure out how to live. A few weeks ago we sat with our support team from Springbrook, and were asked to start making a list of what Karen and I do for Nate, and what he would have to take over from us if he were truly independent. It’s a surprisingly small litany, though some entries are weighty: providing transportation, filling prescriptions, doing laundry, etc. I do think with a little effort, Nate can master most of the tasks. I thought of this when I called him a few nights ago. He was with us at a high school concert, but wandering around the halls of his old haunt. Used to be I would try to track him down, yelling his name and hoping he’d hear me and respond. Now, I just ring him up, he answers, and comes back to us when I ask him to. It took a lot of work to get to this.

The one thing I thought of last night as Joey and I watched TV together and Nate hopped into bed with me, was that we can’t cure the loneliness I know he’d feel if he lived on his own. Maybe that can be fixed too, but I don’t know how. It’s going to be the biggest hurdle to overcome, having Nate leave us down the road but without company to share his life with. I can’t quite tackle that one.

Courtesy of Mission of Complex

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